Talks on IM senior kitchen continue with county

IRON MOUNTAIN — Officials are discussing the possibility of building a sewage lift station at a cost of about $63,000 to allow the kitchen at the Iron Mountain Senior Center to reopen and again prepare home-delivered meals.

With Iron Mountain’s kitchen under a health restriction, the smaller Breen Senior Center in Kingsford is handling home-delivered meals for about 200 clients of the Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency. That flawed solution, expected to be temporary, has gone on nearly six months, County Commissioner Kevin Pirlot said.

“We need to get this fixed,” Pirlot said a county board meeting Monday, emphasizing the importance of the Meals on Wheels program.

Pirlot offered a motion to fund the lift station with community stabilization funds, a state program that reimburses local taxing entities for revenues lost under personal property tax reforms initiated in 2014. The county recently was notified its senior programs will be reimbursed about $80,000 for 2018, and that money has yet to be allocated, Pirlot said.

He proposed paying for the Iron Mountain lift station and then dividing remaining funds among the county’s other senior centers. The measure was defeated in a 2-3 vote.

Chairman Henry Wender, who voted no, insists the lift station is not a county obligation.

Commissioners Joe Stevens and Barbara Kramer didn’t dismiss Pirlot’s idea but said legal issues and other questions should be studied. Kramer suggested a special meeting once more is known, even as soon as this week.

Sewage backups at the senior center at Crystal Lake first happened in early November and the need for a lift station was identified in early February. The county owns the center but says upkeep and maintenance are the responsibility of center’s site council.

Pirlot argued the center has met its maintenance obligation by agreeing to pay $43,000 for work done by Valley Mechanical of Norway to replace damaged pipes and install backflow preventions. The sewage backups were linked to a line shared with the neighboring Northern Lights YMCA. Sewage systems at both the senior center and YMCA have been in working order since repairs were completed, but DICSA has refrained from using the kitchen because of the need for a lift station.

County Controller Brian Bousley was to meet today with representatives of the senior center and DICSA. “Hopefully we can broker some type of agreement,” he said.

Commissioner John Degenaer Jr., who supported Pirlot’s motion, said the county has continued to let the problem linger.

In other action, the county board:

— Received the 2019 Equalization Report from Sid Bray, equalization director, showing the county’s total equalized value at $1.015 billion, an increase of nearly $12.5 million, or 1.23 percent. The county’s taxable value will be up 1.3 percent for 2019, Bray said. By school district, the equalized value is up 1.8 percent in Iron Mountain; 1.9 percent in Norway-Vulcan; 0.8 percent in Breitung Township; and 0.7 percent in North Dickinson.

— Learned Bray plans to retire as equalization director at the end of June. “He will be truly missed,” Bousley said.

— Authorized Coleman Engineering Co. of Iron Mountain to prepare a plan and cost estimate for a sewer and water project at Ford Airport. The county may eventually seek a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan. The project would provide service for a new M.J. Electric hangar at the airport as well as one planned for CSA Air and potentially several more.

— Received a report from Jennifer Cescolini, CEO of Northpointe, which provides behavioral health services in Dickinson, Iron, and Menominee counties. Northpointe’s strategic plan is focused on improving the lives of clients through hope and empowerment, Cescolini said. To maximize its funding, the mental health agency is looking at all possible efficiencies, she said. Among the goals are upgrading services and integrated care through collaboration with community partners.

— Heard an update from Paul Putnam, district director for the Michigan State University Extension. He mentioned several Extension workshops for Dickinson County, including a summit on how to start a food business May 17 at Bay West and a tourism-focused event tentatively scheduled for June 25. “You’ve got a lot to be proud of here,” he said. Putnam encouraged the board to revisit an Extension funding request for 2019. Extension officials reported in December that, despite no county funding, 487 county youth were involved in 4-H and other enrichment programs.

— In advance of Aaron Harper Day from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds in Norway, approved a resolution honoring the longtime newscaster for his “tireless effort to keep the public informed and aware.” The resolution also cites his support for veterans organizations and “his unwavering service to the people” of the county.

— Reappointed Jim Carey and Allan Bilski to three-year terms on the Dickinson County Road Commission; named Michael Miller to fill a partial term through 2022 on the Veterans Affairs Board; and appointed Wallace Townsend to a term to expire in 2025 on the Economic Development Corp. Board. Several vacancies remain on the EDC panel, said Dolly Cook, county clerk-register of deeds.

— Approved paying $13,345 to LaForce Inc. of Green Bay, Wis., for a keyless entry project at the courthouse and correctional center.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500, ext. 26, or